Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Two and two is...

Lately it seems I've fallen in with a bad crowd of meme addicts. True story: when I saw that Ben had been tagged by Becca with "The Meme of Four" my first thought before he even posted his entry was "I bet Ben tags me for this next, because I've previously shown myself to be an easy mark, a patsy, a sucker for this sort of thing." And lo, it came to pass!

The way this one works is that I give four responses in each category, then add a new category of my own at the end before tagging four other suckers. And so...

Four jobs I've had or currently have in my life:

1. sales clerk in a bookstore
2. answering telephones in a print shop
3. sign painter (only once: I misspelled "stationery")
4. handing out flyers in the street

Four countries I've been to:

1. Canada
2. England
3. Holland
4. New Zealand

Four places I'd rather be right now:

1. Ordering lunch at the Fishmonger's Cafe.
2. Visiting the Akihabara for the first time.
3. Having a pint at the Melton Mowbray in Holborn, London.
4. In bed with your sister, if by some unlikely chance you happen to be Jake Gyllenhaal.

Four foods I like to eat:

1. tuna sashimi
2. shrimp tempura
3. Belgian-style fries
4. oil-cured black olives

Four personal heroes, past or present:

1. Jack Kirby
2. Kurt Vonnegut, for reasons previously stated.
3. Mary Shelley, a brilliant writer who at the age of 19 understood what science was all about before they even used that word.
4. My dad -- this might seem a safe or gratuitous choice, but the truth is every day I find myself consciously emulating him in one way or another.

Four books I've just read or am currently reading:

1. The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones
2. The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain
3. Changing Planes by Ursula K. LeGuin
4. Science Fiction At Large, edited by Peter Nicholls

Four words or phrases I'd like to see used more often:

1. gawrsh
2. flibbertigibbet
3. pellucid
4. spot on

Four performances in history I'd attend If I had a TARDIS to bring me there:

1. 9 December 1978, Studio 8H in the RCA Building at Rockefeller Center, New York: Kate Bush performs as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, hosted by Eric Idle.
2. 30 January 1969, roof of 3 Savile Row, London: the Beatles perform "Get Back" three times (!) as well as several other songs from the album Let It Be for a bemused audience of office workers before the police show up.
3. 24 November 1964, Marquee Club, 90 Wardour Street, London: the Who play a gig for an audience of less than 30 people. We have reason to believe it was spectacular; word of mouth from those who attended was so positive that one week later, the band's next show at the Marquee had an attendance of nearly 300.
4. I'm stumped for a fourth choice. With the whole of human history and every variety of performing arts to choose from, I've picked three examples of pop music from within my own lifetime. I should probably mix it up a little and go for something like, I dunno, a 1599 performance of Henry V at the Globe Theatre? But that seems so forced. I'm definitely not fond of crowds, so the big theatrical events of history aren't what I'd choose anyway. I'd rather find something small and intimate that no one knew was going to be historic.

And the category I'll add to this meme is...four things I like:

1. coffee
2. used book stores
3. Earth shoes
4. voice actors and actresses

And the four people I'll tag are:

1. Rob
2. Mark
3. Joel
4. Jeff

Monday, August 20, 2007

Gotham on the Champlain

I don't know how I missed hearing about this, but apparently it's old news that six-term Senator from Vermont, Senate Judiciary Committee chair, nemesis of Dick "go fuck yourself" Cheney -- and longtime Batman fan -- Patrick Leahy has a speaking role in The Dark Knight.

After the attention his bonehead colleague from Alaska got simply for wearing a Hulk tie, I'm surprised the Leahy news didn't get more play in the comics blogosphere. Or maybe it did and I just didn't see it?

They certainly seem to be loving it in the political blogosphere, especially since it provides endless opportunities for all the predictable Adam West/Burt Ward-inspired headlines like "Zap! Pow!" and "Holy Beltway, Batman!" Surely we can do better than that...

Monday, August 06, 2007

The road

That's my mom a few steps ahead of us on the road into town one evening.

In 1977, my family started spending summer vacations in this town. The year is fixed in my mind because I remember hearing on the radio that Elvis Presley had died while we were there. We took a house about a mile away from town, and we'd walk along this road -- past the route to the beach with the cast iron lighthouse, past the restaurant in the geodesic dome, past the dock where tourists boarded the ferry to the more desirable tourist destination -- to reach the post office, the grocery store, a few places to eat, and the drug store. Besides aspirin and suntan lotion, the drug store sold paperbacks and magazines and comics.

A couple of my happiest discoveries were Robert Heinlein's Time Enough For Love and Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven. The last year we were there, I found the Schrödinger's Cat trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson in that same drug store. I scoured the magazine rack for new issues of Starlog and its spinoff publication Future Life. But of course I lived for the comics spinner rack. I don't know why the memory of buying Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #233 there should be particularly vivid -- the comic itself didn't seem especially good or memorable to me even at the time -- but it's inextricably linked to that time and place. I can remember a dozen other comics I bought in the same place just as clearly.

As we walked back I'd usually be a few steps behind the rest of my family, lost in thought while plotting comics. My imaginary comics tended to be multi-issue epics, closely patterned after what Chris Claremont was doing in The Uncanny X-Men and Iron Fist. One of my ideas involved a time-travelling mutant sent back to our era by a benevolent future leader to protect the leader during his present day boyhood. How could I have guessed that both The Terminator and The Invisibles would swipe from me? Besides my own characters, I mapped out an elaborate story featuring the Legion of Substitute Heroes, because it seemed like no one had done anything interesting with them. I devoted much thought to a thorough revamp of Karate Kid -- the comics character, not the film series -- a great character cursed with a lame solo series. I was always more inspired by bad comics and the desire to improve on them than by good ones. I never put any of it down on paper; just endlessly rehearsed and reworked it all in my head. To this day I still do most of my writing on long walks, and this road is where I developed the habit.

Our last family trip has to have been in 1981. (This date is the subject of much heated debate between my sister and myself -- she's convinced it was earlier -- but I'm right.) This year my mother and my sister devised a plan for us all to return there and rent a house the way we used to. The town was almost exactly the same as I remembered it, but of course there were some differences: my dad is gone (he died shortly before I started blogging, in fact) and we were joined by my sister's husband and their two sons. The drug store is gone, replaced by a coffee house which offers live jazz in the evenings and free wi-fi connectivity. The nearest comics shop is an hour's drive away, though the book store in the neighboring town had a shelf of graphic novels and several shelves of manga had I been so inclined.

My sister's older boy spent a great deal of time inside reading the last volume of Harry Potter, but as I've mentioned he and his younger brother aren't interested in comics so they didn't go around plotting imaginary series in their heads. While we were up there, my first story for Flashback Universe came out (as you may have heard) with more to come. I've scripted a yet-to-be-announced six-issue miniseries for an indie publisher, and I've got a new project coming up soon. I could walk down this road again and honestly tell my younger self I didn't forget...

...hey, are they having a party down at the Coast Guard station? With all those colored lights it sure looks like it...

...no, it looks like that every night. Sure seems festive, though.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Tom Swift and his geodesic dome

It's nearly impossible to get a good full shot of it due to the surrounding trees, but this is the first geodesic dome building ever constructed by Buckminster Fuller. Despite a bit of sagging and superficial damage, the structure, sixty feet in diameter, is in remarkably good shape 55 years later.

For a very long time it was a restaurant, a good one. Disappointingly, they put a roof inside to cover the interior of the dome...but while it would have been spectacular to see, I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to manage such practical matters as acoustics and air conditioning if they'd left the entirety of the dome interior exposed. The restaurant closed not too long ago; the interior view shows the place in its present abandoned state.

The Dome is currently being investigated by the state historical commission and may qualify for listing in the National Register of Historic Places...but the property on which it rests has been targeted by a developer seeking to build condominiums on the land. This is a major story for the local newspaper (only published twice a week and 80% of each issue seems to consist of obituary listings) and may end up playing a role in a statewide grassroots effort to repeal an outdated state law which grants developers the right to bypass local zoning laws more or less at will.

I'd like to see the Dome preserved and revived. Perhaps used as a restaurant again, or perhaps some other use that would make it accessible to the public rather than making it the private property of the owners of expensive condos. I don't believe in ghosts, but if I did, I'd think that place would be full of them. Not only ghosts from the past, but also from the imaginary techno-utopian luxe future where posh restaurants are built in geodesic domes and robot valets accept the keys to your Dymaxion car before you board the Pan-Am space clipper for a jaunt to the orbital Hilton.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


A specimen collecting ship docked near the oldest research aquarium in the United States.

Having four research institutions devoted to marine biology and environmental science located in one town guarantees one thing at least: the quality of the raw seafood is spectacular. The look of horror mingled with disgust on my sister's face while I savored cherrystones and littlenecks on the half shell only made them sweeter.

Thirty years earlier in the same town I watched with fear and envy as adults consumed piles of raw shellfish, wishing I was brave enough to try one but never daring to make the attempt. To come back three decades later and actually be one of those adults (while my sister's children looked on as I once did) was everything I could have hoped it would be.

Well, except for not being married to Kate Bush and not flying there on my jetpack. But I don't want to sound greedy.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A long walk

One of the docks at the seawall, with a fisherman barely visible at the far end. This particular town is not a tourist destination...though many hundreds of them pass through every day en route to the ferry going to the island in the distance, which is a major tourist spot.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Where I've been

Yeah, I came back after all! Many thanks to John and Red and Jeff for reminding me I hadn't been forgotten, and to GTS for plugging my Flashback Universe debut while I was away. These thoughtful gestures are much appreciated.

Above is the same beach from the previous photo, now seen from the other end, taken from the twisting road that runs past a cast-iron lighthouse from 1876 which is still in use. Most days were remarkably clear and sunny...but on the particular day I chose to get these shots of the beach an afternoon fog came in, making the distances recede into an atmospheric haze.